A couple of weeks ago, we lost our cat, Panther. It was sudden — she was only mildly sick one night and we made a plan to take her to the vet first thing the next morning if she was still not feeling great, but she was gone by then. She wasn’t old or in poor health, so it was tough to understand.
In grasping for information that might give us insight into what happened to our poor cat, I started doing some reading online. While we don’t have any firm evidence of what killed Panther, I did stumble upon some really interesting and troubling information that — related to our tragedy or not — I thought I would share here with all of you.
In 2008, the EPA reviewed rodenticides — things like d-CON rat and mouse poison — and realized that, while very effective at killing rodents, these products were also inadvertently causing poisoning and death in other wildlife, pets, and humans.
So, they regulated how these products could be packaged and dispensed, and what toxins could be used. The EPA outlawed the use of four specific types of “second-generation anticoagulants” — poisons that cause bleeding deaths.
In response, the largest maker of mouse and rat poison, Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of d-CON, finally began phasing out some of these products in 2014.
But, by 2019, Reckitt and other companies switched to using other non-anticoagulant toxins. Ones that do not have antidotes like first- and second-generation anticoagulants do.
So, even if you personally don’t use rodenticides or poisons on your own property, but your neighbor does, your pets could very well be at risk and, despite best efforts, if they are exposed through secondary poisoning — you likely won’t be able to help them. Even animals who survive extensive treatment are often maimed.
There was an effort in the state of California last year to ban many of these types of highly toxic rodenticides within the state — AB 1788 — but it was ultimately unsuccessful.
But the legislation attempt was borne out of real data. According to the Sacramento Bee: “Each year, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (California) performs dozens of autopsies known as necropsies on mountain lion carcasses. Nine out of every 10 cougars tested have traces of anticoagulant poisons in their livers.”
They find similar results in coyotes, raptors (owls, hawks, etc.) and other wildlife — and pets — who are ingesting rodents that have been poisoned prior to ingestion.
This was all information that was really new and interesting to me as a pet owner. I don’t believe for one second that anyone would intentionally harm our pets, but all this information did make me wonder how many people around us were still using such products, not knowing how dangerous they were, and if this was the culprit.
When our cat was sick, I was looking for symptoms of poisoning from the old types of toxins — not the newer, more toxic types. I was completely unaware myself.
At any rate, there are alternatives to rodenticides — some really good ones — and we have some excellent local and regional exterminator options who can deploy appropriate toxins safely, if absolutely necessary.
And, in case you’re wondering, we do have a happy ending: Our family visited the Lewis County Animal Shelter (by appointment only right now, due to COVID) and adopted “Connor,” a young black cat with a short tail with two kinks in it. Our boys were very excited to welcome a new kitty home. He currently rules our master bedroom closet (his chosen spot).
In the meantime, I hope this all generates a conversation about the use of rodenticides. If we care about hoof rot in elk and the like, this seems like another issue worth examining.
Brittany Voie is a columnist for The Chronicle. She lives south of Chehalis with her husband and two young sons. She welcomes correspondence from the community at firstname.lastname@example.org.